Leaving Work Behind

Leaving Guilt Behind: How to Embrace the Solopreneur Way of Life

Written by Guest Author on April 17, 2014. 28 Comments

The following is a guest post from Christina Nellemann, a graphic/web designer, writer and blogger from Northern Nevada who travels the world and attends Burning Man. Her work can be found at Feline Design.

GuiltYou’ve worked and slaved (maybe for decades) for your freedom. You’ve saved up your money, made contacts and connections, and — most of all — you’ve beaten the fear that plagues most people who want to quit their job. You’re free and working on what and when you want.

Now comes the guilt.

As I write this, I’m celebrating over a month of freedom from my full-time job. I worked for 15 years for other companies and now I’m running my own freelance design and writing business. For the past year my schedule was like this: wake up at 5am, work full time for eight or nine hours, come home, grab some food and go right back to work on my freelance job until 10pm. That type of schedule is enough to turn anyone into a workaholic and when it comes time to leave the full time job, there tends to be a bit more free time available.

Along with this newly acquired freedom often comes guilty feelings:

There’s no doubt in the first few weeks of your new life that guilt will begin to nibble at your day. You’ll chastise yourself for not living a “regular life” because you’re not making as much money, not working all the time and not getting enough respect from peers and family. However, you can waylay that guilt by keeping the following tips in mind.

1. Give Yourself Some Credit

You’ve probably already worked hard to become free and you will continue to work hard to stay free. Give yourself some credit for the work you’ve already put in to making this new life.

If you’ve saved up enough money to cover the lean times, you already have the discipline to work hard on your own business. Now you also have the freedom and time to work on those multiple streams of income. Remember, everything doesn’t have to be done today.

If you do start feeling guilty about the money issue, remember that not all the work you do will make you money directly. New relationships, communications, planning, ideas and brainstorming help your business in other ways — not just the bottom line.

2. Make Guilt Work for You

You know that nagging feeling of guilt when you should be working on a project and you’re busy watching reruns of “The Walking Dead”? Make that nagging feeling work for you and get off your butt. Guilt about not making enough money keeps you out looking for jobs and new connections. It keeps you away from the latest YouTube videos or photobombing pics.

Some days are going to be more productive and lucrative than others, but keep yourself motivated every day with the many tips featured here on Leaving Work Behind.

3. Set Boundaries

You are bound to get comments from family and friends who think you sit around all day doing nothing. To the people who head to a corporate environment each day, sitting at a laptop in your pajamas looks just like slacking. But what they don’t realize is that you probably work harder than they do. Even away from the computer, you’re constantly thinking up new ideas, concepts and projects.

When I left my full-time job, family members would tell our friends I had retired. I wish! I had to work even harder to convince them I was not sitting around in a rocking chair all day.

In truth, many people will be jealous about your new found life and won’t be able to admit it. Suppress their thoughts and comments and be sure to set regular hours when you can’t leave to help clean your friend’s messy garage.

4. Find Your Groove

Your freelance hours may differ somewhat from your full time hours. Your most productive hours are not dictated to you by your boss, but by your own body and mind. They could be from early morning to mid morning or from 10pm to midnight.

Personally speaking, I’m up at 6am writing when my mind is clear, but my body begins to shut down around 3pm. Jarrett Bellini of CNN decided that 2:55pm is his most unproductive time of the day and I can relate to that.

No matter what your daily schedule is, what doesn’t change is the need for regular breaks and vacations. Even with guilt, your excitement could get in the way of how you take care of yourself. Get away from the office or computer and take a daily walk, hike or nap. It’s tempting to keep the guilt at bay by working every day. Avoid that guilt, but keep your work antennae up for new contacts and inspiration — they can come from anywhere.

5. Surround Yourself With Other “Freedom Fighters”

Friends and family who have “regular” jobs may not understand your guilt, but the freelance writer or designer down the street is your new best friend.

Get together regularly with other people who work for themselves and ask how they set up their day and deal with any guilty or unproductive feelings. The longer someone has been in business for themselves, the less guilt they tend to feel.


Ditching the full-time job and working for yourself is not “weird” any more. It’s the new way of work. However, it’s still not the norm in many social circles and explaining what you do without feeling guilty might be one of the first steps in your new work life. Good luck!

Photo Credit: 30dagarmedanalhus

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28 Responses to “Leaving Guilt Behind: How to Embrace the Solopreneur Way of Life”

  1. Julie
    April 17, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    I really needed to read this today. I will be working for myself full-time, at least for the summer. I hate when I feel guilty about it.

    • Christina
      April 18, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      You’re welcome, Julie. It’s taken me a while to not feel guilty about not working all the time. I still get that nagging feeling that I should sit my butt down and get some work done, but I’m not so hard on myself. Don’t be hard on yourself either. Enjoy your summer!

  2. Jackson Davies
    April 17, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    What a great article. An inspiring read! I would agree wholeheartedly on the point that you can find a naturally good time to perform work which suits you better. I’m most awake and active between 10pm – 1am because I’ve always been a night owl. I think getting the right amount of sleep improves your overall drive during the day (or night if that’s what suits you better).

    Ditch the guilt!! If you’re working you’re working 🙂

    • Christina
      April 18, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      Thank you Jackson! Yes, I’ve noticed now that I’m more productive as a solopreneur than as a full-timer since I work when I work best. This leaves less room for guilt. Win-Win!

  3. Michelle at Making Sense of Cents
    April 17, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Love this post! I left my day job in October of 2013, and I always feel like I should be working harder. Life is just so good right now and sometimes I am a little bit hard on myself.

    • Christina
      April 18, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Thank you Michelle! I know exactly what you mean about life being so good—you don’t want to spoil it by piling on more work. Balance is best. Congrats on leaving your job!

  4. Pauline Sabin
    April 18, 2014 at 1:35 am

    Great article Christina, and everything you’ve written resonates with my own journey! I love the fact that I’m working even when I’m not working (looking for great ideas, making new connections etc) and can make my own hours.

  5. Kaya Ismail
    April 18, 2014 at 9:37 am

    One of the best blog posts I’ve read in a while. Like Julie said before me, I really needed to read this today.

    I’m well over a year into freelancing/working from home, and I can assure you that these issues don’t simply fade away with time. Even today, I’m still needing to implement all of the 5 listed steps. Part of the package it seems.

    Worth it though 🙂

    • Christina
      April 18, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      Thank you Kaya. I like what you say about feeling guilty being part of the package. It’s something I’m still learning and trying to get other full-timer friends and family to understand. There’s a whole other set of issues that you have to deal with as a freelancer—totally different from full time.

  6. Michaela Mitchell
    April 19, 2014 at 12:38 am

    I definitely needed to read this. I’m 6 weeks away from leaving my full-time job and going freelance on my own. I’m scared to death and excited. I’m worried about working myself into the ground, but I’m also freaked out that I won’t make any money. I know I can do this and I have a great support system. Thanks for the virtual pep talk. 🙂

    • Christina
      April 21, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      Congratulations Michaela! Get as much as you can out of those last six weeks and then give yourself a little break—but not for long. Before you know it, you’ll be wondering when you had the time for a full-time job.

  7. Naomi@business start ups
    April 21, 2014 at 12:46 am

    Hi Christina,

    The point I can most relate to is #3 Set Boundaries. The Jealously. People think I’m sat at my laptop all day watching ‘cat do the funniest things’ on UTube.

    When in reality I never stop working. All my social media and emails are connected to my mobile so I can reply instantly and keep on top of things. When I get ideas I have to write them down immediately. If I have meet a deadline I will work late in the night.

    In reality I think what people are jealous of is the fact I had the balls to do it and it was unexpected too. Most just don’t have the guts.

    Great post. Sharing!


    • Christina
      April 21, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      Thank you Naomi. I agree that most jealousy comes from people who are fearful to take that first (and last) step, so they just stay in limbo. Don’t work too much…you can burn out. I did that, got really sick, and wasn’t much use to anyone, much less my own business.

  8. Vukasin
    April 21, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Hey Tom

    I hope you are doing awesome. I haven’t been on LeavingWorkBehind.com for a quite long so for the past hour I was just reading your latest posts.

    Like always, you have lot of smart things to say.
    I shared couple of your latest posts as a reward for a great writing and lot of useful informations.

    Keep rocking Tom!


    • Tom Ewer
      April 23, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks Vukasin! I didn’t write this one – Christina did a great job with it – but I appreciate your kind words all the same!

  9. Eddie Phillips
    April 22, 2014 at 1:00 am

    Trying to move from outside employment to home work is a real challenge. I don’t really feel guilty because I still work part-time. Just wish I had home income enough to stop my part-time job entirely. Still have not found the right work at home method yet.

    I feel anyone trying to transition from working outside the home to working at home must do very careful planning. There’s more to it than most realize. Thanks for your encouraging article!

  10. Corey Pemberton
    April 22, 2014 at 1:36 am

    Great advice, Christina. I expected the anxiety and fear when I decided to start freelancing full-time, but guilt was a surprise. I wish I would’ve been able to read your post a year ago!

    And I liked what you said about making guilt work for you. Nothing’s worse than beating yourself up day after day and not even coming away with anything to show for it.


    • Christina
      April 28, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Thank you Corey. I agree. It’s not very constructive or productive to give yourself such a hard time when you’ve already accomplished what so many people strive for.

  11. Saul
    April 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    Great post, and nice to see a fellow Burner on here! Will you be part of any particular camp this year?

    • Christina
      April 28, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Hi Saul! We usually have our own camp around 3:00 and H or I. I camp in a tiny yellow teardrop trailer. 🙂 Where are you?

  12. Kelly McCausey
    April 25, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    I’m with you Christina and I’m a long time nap taker. I work until I feel my brain hit the cushy wall of afternoon tiredness and then I walk away from the computer!

    Naps make this Solopreneur happy 🙂

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